Review – Hypernova from CL-Projects

 

Here’s a look at the recently released Hypernova sound library from CL-Projects, which brilliantly captures the sound of the Novation Supernova analog synth and which which makes sophisticated sound design a breeze.

 

By David Baer, Nov. 2015

 

It was just earlier this year that I discovered CL-Projects, a Belgian-based sound library developer run by a fellow named Frank Dierickx. I reviewed a trio of offerings called The Blue Orb trilogy in our May issue, which you can find here:

http://soundbytesmag.net/blueorbtrilogy/

Well, as much as I liked Blue Orb, it’s all but forgotten to me now that I’ve experienced Hypernova. This may be [spoiler alert!] my favorite package of Kontakt electronica I’ve experienced yet.

 

The sounds in this package were all captured from a Novation Supernova II Platinum X (the 48 voice version, not that that’s significant), pictured immediately above. The Supernova II has three oscillators. CL-Projects created custom sounds for the hardware synth, but mostly kept filters and modulations out of the picture, deferring those manipulations to filters and LFOs in Kontakt.

And what a diverse set of sounds they are. There are 157 of them in to be precise in the form of sample sets recorded with impeccable precision and detail. Like the original instrument, the Hypernova library presents an instrument with three oscillators. Each has a basic saw wave square wave and noise provided, but the three saw waves and three square waves are all unique, just as was the case on the original instrument. Then, each oscillator has 50 “special” sound selections. These are all custom-programmed original sounds. The list for each oscillator is different.

 

What results from all of this is a walk in the park for anyone who desires to do significant sound design but hasn’t developed the deep skills to make interesting sounds from the ground up. The story is actually pretty simple. Starting with one of the sample sets, pick a sound. Then use the oscillator’s associated filter, envelopes and LFOs to tailor the sound. One need possess only elementary sound design knowledge to come up with stunning results. And then there are FX to be added and an arpeggiator to bring into the picture, should that be part of the game plan. We’ll get back to these extras shortly.

In the UI image above, you can see the main interface page. But think of it as three identical separate tabs, selected by clicking one of the three “osc” buttons. From that point everything else on the page belongs to that oscillator. Thus, a filter setting can be dialed in, for example. But if you wish to layer two or three sounds, the other oscillators can be given very different filter characteristics and behavior. Since rich and satisfying sounds can be created using just a single oscillator (and some of the factory presets ably demonstrate this), you don’t have to stretch your imagination to envision what stacked sounds can do. And then, there’s always the possibility of expanding into multi-s if your appetite for sonic complexity is still not satisfied.

The oscillator sound is selected by clicking the “square”, “saw”, “noise” or “special” buttons. When using the latter, a menu of 50 choices is presented. Immediately below the sound selection area are the self-explanatory controls for level, etc. Once again, these are settable on a per-oscillator basis.  Below, you can see the sound choices available (this was reproduced directly from the entirely adequate documentation). The only significant limitation comes when you would like to layer two or more sounds from the same list. But the solution is easy enough – just create a Kontakt multi preset.

Modulation of the basic sound is completely straight forward. We can influence the level with velocity, mod wheel, channel pressure and key tracking (a little goes a long way on this one). We can also invert any of these, permitting a velocity-controlled crossfade between two oscillators if desired – piece of cake!
Individual ADSR envelopes are available for modulating amplitude and pitch. Likewise, individual LFOs can modulate amplitude, pitch and panorama. Each has individually settable sensitivity, speed and delay. And, again, these control just the oscillator currently in view. Each oscillator has its own full complement of modulation accoutrement.

Next let’s consider the filters. There are five possibilities: low, band and high-pass ladder-modelled filters (the four-pole versions). Then there’s the Kontakt legacy low-pass filter. And I’m delighted to say that the vintage Pro53-modeled picture completes the picture. This was an area that I thought was one of the few deficiencies in the Blue Orb instruments.

The “frequency” and “resonance” controls do just what you expect. The “gain” control allows you to supply make-up gain in case the filter attenuates the signal too much. The “sense” control dictates to what extent the envelope modulates the cutoff.

Filter modulation is once again easily grasped. We can modulate frequency using velocity, mod wheel, channel pressure and/or key-track. I’m especially pleased to see key-track modulation control being present right there on the UI. Easy does it with that one, however. If you want the frequency to exactly follow the note number (and you would rarely want it be any more than that), a setting of 9 o’clock or slightly less is all that’s needed to get the job done.
Finally, filter frequency modulation has an envelope and an LFO to call upon, dedicated to the current oscillator only.

At the global level, we have the fairly standard Kontakt portamento and Unisono capability within easy reach.

Everything you need to create a sound layer is right there in front of you. Add to that the marvelous sounds on offer, and you too can be a world class sound designer with a minimum of effort. How could it be any easier? Actually, there are several rather minor things. For one, it would be really convenient to at least have a capability for controlling oscillator level mix without having to constantly jump between the individual oscillator tabs. The other issue is vibrato. If you have a preset using more than one oscillator and want a unified vibrato across the multiple oscillators, it’s all but impossible to get two or three different LFOs to sync up or at least stay synced for very long. An option to control pitch of all oscillators with a single LFO would have solved this (that’s not to say that out-of-sync pitch oscillation is always a bad thing, by the way). But in the end, these are certainly not major complaints in light of everything here that makes effective sound design so effortless.

 

Let’s briefly touch on the FX, everything being found on the effects tab shown above. These are shared by all three oscillators, as would be expected. We have Reverb, Chorus, Delay, Distortion, a 3-band EQ, a Flanger, and a Phaser. The Hypernova FX use standard Kontakt capabilities. These are all perfectly adequate, and they will get the job done just fine. I just don’t think they merit a lot of discussion.

 

Finally, let’s look at the Apreggiator tab. OK, there’s an arp, and it’s Kontakt standard issue. If you are in the camp of musicians who like and use such things, this one is plenty capable. If you aren’t in that camp, you’ll just ignore it as I normally do. Same story as usual. Even if you don’t use arps in your music, they can be fun for just noodling around and can make for great preset demos.

A more confusing aspect of this tab lies in the bottom portion. We can specify a pitch bend range independently for each oscillator (and cause pitch to bend in different directions, at that). That part is easy enough to grasp. But to the right are the Pitch LFO and Level LFO sections. What’s going on here – did we not cover this all on the Controls tab? Well, no, not quite. I suspect that the designer just ran out of UI space on the main page and could not add these controls where they would have been more logical. What we have here is the place in which you can set the level of influence that the mod wheel and aftertouch have on the pitch LFO (vibrato) and the level LFO (tremolo).

It’s probably abundantly clear that I’m a huge fan of CL-Projects in general and Hypernova in particular. But I would be remiss not to mention one thing I experienced (and apparently only I experienced). A very small number of the samples (individual ones, not entire sample sets) did not loop properly. CL-Projects was not able to duplicate this behavior and reported that none of the other Hypernova users have reported problems. So, I must assume this small glitch is local to my DAW. Bottom line: do not let my mention of this issue influence your purchase decision, but should you experience something similar, I’m sure CL-Projects will want your cooperation in identifying the cause.

So, that about does it. If you like rich, analogue-sounding synth sounds and you want to give the impression that you’re a masterful sound designer, then you’ve found a marvelous resource in Hypernova. At $49.95, this is almost a no-brainer. Well, done, CL-Projects!

For more information or to purchase Hypernova, go here:

http://www.cl-projects-sound-design.com/

 

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